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Matt Beem
President and COO
Kinetic Fundraising, Inc.

A small increase pays big

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Washington, D.C. – Imagine what could happen if we grew philanthropy.

In 2009, Americans collectively gave away about $304 billion. That’s 2 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product.

What if we increased philanthropy 5 percent to $319 billion? Or 10 percent to $334 billion? Think of the difference we could make in people’s lives.

A growing band of fundraisers and nonprofit leaders believe it’s possible. Through analysis of the current state of giving and a strategic plan for change, we have the power to move the philanthropic needle.

That shared commitment is what drew 35 of the country’s nonprofit sector leaders together Thursday at the Hay-Adams Hotel here. They gathered for the first-ever Growing Philanthropy Summit in response to their collective call to increase giving.

If you’re like me, your eyes tend to glaze over when you consider increasing charitable giving from $304 billion to $319 billion. That’s a lot of dough.

And if you can follow the numbers, you have questions: So what? How does that change my life and community? If I give a little more, does that really contribute to an overall increase in giving?

Let’s break it down.

If I gave $1.10 instead of $1 each day to Community Services League in Independence – a 10 percent increase – my annual gift would jump from $365 to $401.50. As a result, the organization could serve more families in need of food, medical treatment, job training and other social services.

If my neighbor increased his weekly gift to the Heart of America Council of the Boy Scouts of America from $10 to $11 – a 10-percent bump – his annual support would jump from $520 to $572. The additional $52 would help the council provide camp scholarships and pay leaders to serve troops without committed volunteers.

If a family increased its weekly church offering from $20 to $22 – a 10 percent spike – its annual giving would jump from $1,040 to $1,144. In turn, the congregation could provide more meaningful youth programming, serve its neighborhood more effectively and grow new ministries.

In fact, if we each increased our giving just 10 percent – an amount many of us could manage – we would alone make a significant difference in the organizations’ abilities to deliver their missions and serve people in need. And just imagine the increased impact they could have if every donor gave 10 percent more.

That potential created a strong current of positive energy here Thursday at the Growing Philanthropy Summit sponsored by Blackbaud and Kinetic. Participants spoke openly and honestly about obstacles to philanthropic growth, and break-out groups offered bold ideas and plans to grow giving.

One was to create a new opportunity across the nonprofit sector for individuals to drive philanthropy to the organizations they support through social media. Another was to create a nonprofit mutual fund. And on and on.

What drives my passion for fundraising and philanthropy is the ability it offers each of us to express our preferences and passion and stimulate significant, global change. Our gifts to CSL, the Boy Scouts of America and our local church are important – they help those around us, and they increase giving.

Our gifts do make a difference. Together, we can grow philanthropy.

> Matt Beem Bio